COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Advocates in Ohio are forming a caucus to unify the state’s LGBTQ+ population of more than 462,000 to stand against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and become involved in local politics.

Named the “Pride Caucus,” the organization’s mission is to identify, train and fundraise for LGBTQ+ Ohioans who want to become activists, campaign volunteers and elected leaders. Jeremy Blake, an organizer of the caucus and former Newark City Council member, said the caucus marks the first in the Buckeye State dedicated solely to the LGBTQ+ community.

(Courtesy Photo/Pride Caucus)

“Regardless if it’s a city council seat, a school board seat, a township trustees seat, or even the state legislature, we want to help you take that next step and support you in becoming an out and proud LGBTQ+ elected official,” Blake said.

Pride Caucus will identify leaders for candidate recruitment and provide networking opportunities for members to connect with current elected officials. Blake said the caucus is also planning to host fundraising events and train members on how to run a proper campaign that is successful at the ballot box.

The group is mobilizing the LGBTQ+ community as a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been proposed this year nationwide. In Ohio, lawmakers have advanced the “Save Women’s Sports Act” to ban transgender girls from participating in female athletics and introduced the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act” to ban gender-affirming care for minors.

Blake said the sea of legislation is why the caucus aims to discover LGBTQ+ leaders beyond Ohio’s main cities, aiming to build coalitions across the state. The caucus also hopes to protect and serve as mentors for LGBTQ+ youth struggling with mental health. Research from The Trevor Project shows LGBTQ+ youth who live in a community that is accepting reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide.

“The introduction of these bills, let alone the passage of these bills, causes severe mental health issues among our community,” Blake said. “The suicide rates among our community are very high.”

Blake is encouraging all members of the state’s LGBTQ+ community to get involved with the caucus and said even those who don’t want to run for office can play a role in creating change. Prospective members can learn more and stay up to date with the Pride Caucus here.